Central Districts take title after Otago collapse
Central Districts are the new Plunket Shield champions after Otago squandered an excellent chance to go past them in the final round and take the first-class title for the first time in 25 years. Central Districts drew with Northern Districts in the last round of the tournament and Otago went down by 54 runs against Wellington. That meant Central Districts remained at the top of the table at 124 points, nine ahead of Otago and well in front of the rest to ensure the title was theirs. Had Otago beaten Wellington, and taken the 12 points awarded for an outright win, they would have been the champions.
Central Districts 418 (Raval 121, How 93, Boult 3-83) and 116 for 2 (How 84*) drew with Northern Districts 267 (Mitchell 72, Marshall 54, Wheeler 3-35) and 435 for 9 dec (Marshall 156*, Anderson 89)
Northern Districts held Central Districts to a draw at the Saxton Oval in Nelson. Central Districts took the advantage early in the game, bowling out the opposition for 267 on the opening day. A century from opener Jeet Raval and his first-wicket stand of 215 with Jamie How set up Central Districts in their response, and the lower order pushed them further to 418. Northern Districts fought back well in their second innings, James Marshall anchoring them with 156 with support from Corey Anderson and No.10 Ish Sodhi.
Northern Districts were 285 for 6 at stumps on the third day, when Central Districts still had a good chance of forcing an outright win. But Northern Districts' lower order denied them and Central Districts had to settle for a draw after their opponents made 435 for 9 declared. The proceedings at the game between Otago and Wellington, however, ensured that Central Districts retained their lead and sealed the title.
Wellington 255 (Papps 63, Neesham 3-39) and 322 (Kuggeleijn 68, Woodcock 62, Wagner 4-92) beat Otago 378 (Redmond 152, Wells 81, Patel 5-80) and 145 (Neesham 49, Gillespie 4-50, Patel 3-52)
Otago will be ruing their performance against Wellington, one that deprived them of their first first-class title in 25 years. After choosing to field, a collective bowling effort helped them bowl out Wellington for 255. Aaron Redmond led the way for Otago in their first innings, making 152 at the top of the order and guiding them to a lead of 123. Left-arm seamer Neil Wagner then backed that up when Wellington came out to bat again, picking up four wickets to restrict them to 322. Luke Woodcock, Scott Kuggeleijn and Jeetan Patel hit half-centuries to stretch the lead to 200, giving Wellington's bowlers a competitive chance against Otago.
Otago will have backed themselves to chase down 201 but their openers fell in quick time. Early strikes from Mark Gillespie and Ili Tugaga left them struggling at 40 for 4. Michael Bracewell and Jimmy Neesham added 70 for the fifth wicket but Patel ended that stand. It also triggered a collapse as Gillespie and Patel made further inroads. Neesham fell for 49 with the score on 124; the last five wickets added just 21. Otago were bowled out for 145 in 41.2 overs, losing the match and a fine opportunity to take the championship.